There are few L.A. events that reliably bring together A-listers from the art world and Hollywood; one that always draws the right mix is the annual Angel Art benefit held at CAA’s Century City headquarters.
“Everybody shows up,” says CAA agent Thao Nguyen, who also helps oversee the agency’s extensive contemporary art exhibition. “We had one year where Orlando Bloom and [artist] Tracey Emin were bidding against each other to get a work up way above its value, and they were kind of heckling one another in the live auction. It’s all out of fun and goodwill.”
This year, 49 works will be up for grabs during the event’s live and silent auction -- and right now on online auction site Paddle8 -- and 100 percent of final sales benefit Los Angeles-based nonprofit Project Angel Food, which delivers upward of 600,000 meals a year to food-insecure homebound individuals facing such life-threatening illnesses as HIV/AIDS and cancer.
CAA got involved nine years ago, when the then-president of Project Angel Food, John Gile, who knew CAA managing partners Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd, approached the agency with the idea of an art-related charity event. “The guys really loved it and we said, ‘Great, let’s do it,’” recalls Nguyen, whose clients at the agency include architect Rem Koolhaas and graphic designer and artist Stefan Sagmeister.
Since then, the event -- which counts producer Darren Star, Neil Patrick Harris, power couple Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux, designer/director Tom Ford, CAA's Beth Swofford and blue-chip gallerists Shaun Caley Regen, Larry Gagosian, Michael Kohn, Honor Fraser and David Maupin as committee members this year -- has raised more than $4.3 million for the nonprofit, funds that have made possible the delivery of about 1 million meals. “At Project Angel Food, we serve the unseen and the easily forgotten, and Angel Art is crucial for us,” says the organization’s CEO, Margaret Steele. The group was founded in 1989 and has 3,500 active volunteers.
Artists, galleries and collectors donate all the works, and sometimes their generosity redounds to their benefit. “The thing about charity art auctions is that a lot of the artworks don’t sell or they sell below their value,” says Nguyen. Angel Art, by contrast, “is so successful now that the artworks go way above value. This becomes public record, and it’s great for the artists, great for the galleries and most importantly great for Project Angel Food."
Ed Ruscha gives a piece every year -- his Cinco (2000) on work on paper, an image of a cup on a mottled background, has an estimated of $45,000 and a minimum bid of $30,000. Photographer Catherine Opie will do a commissioned portrait of a winning bidder (minimum: $16,000). The piece with the highest estimate is a neo-rococo portrait of Nicki Minaj by Francesco Vezzoli (estimated at $100,000), while some pieces in the silent auction start with minimums of $2,000.
Emerging artists also get their art in front of some of the most influential collectors in Hollywood. And Nguyen probably isn’t alone in regretting that she didn’t buy some of those up-and-coming, now-turned-bluechip artists when they popped up at Angel Art in years past. “Nine years ago, we had a Peter Doig [painting] and I still kick myself to this day. I should have gotten it. He’s huge no,” she says. Work by the likes of highly collectible artists Mark Bradford and Elliott Hundley also popped up there early in their careers. “We had a piece of Elliott’s and he had just gotten out of UCLA, one of his collage pieces.”
Celebrity faces also make an appearance in this year’s auction in portraits by Dennis Hopper (of Andy Warhol), Willy Rizzo (of Brigette Bardot) and Marilyn Minter (Pamela Anderson). Some of the big names rounding out the list of participating artists are William Eggleston, Retna, Terry Richardson, Mark Ryden, Kenny Scharf, Jorge Pardo, Frank Gehry, Richard Serra and James Welling. New to the mix this year is an Amsterdam trip, donated by A-list travel expert Melissa Schwartz of Destination Happiness, valued at $35,000 to Amsterdam that includes tickets for two, airport greeter, private chauffeur, four-night stay in a suite at the Conservatorium Hotel, dinner at new restaurant Samhoud and personalized consultation to plan the stay. Angel Art also pulls in a heavy-hitter in the form of Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s principal auctioneer, who’ll pry dollars from wallets.
Tickets to Tuesday's event cost $150, but it’s possible to bid on the works without attending thanks to a partnership with virtual auction house Paddle8. Bidding is open until Tuesday at noon PST with bids transferring to the live and silent auctions that night and Paddle8 representing those bidders during the event.
Industry names who serve on Project Angel Food’s board of directors include Star, entertainment business manager John McIlwee of Shephard McIlwee Tinglof and Gagosian Gallery’s Deborah McLeod.